Referred to by film producer Sir Michael Balcon as one of the worst films made at the prestigious Ealing Studios, Charles Crichton’s The Love Lottery is a disappointing and often bizarre entry in British film history that wastes the talents of all involved.
The film, clearly attempting to be a biting showbiz satire, follows Rex Allerton (David Niven), a heartthrob movie star plagued by nightmares as he cracks under the pressure of his own stardom. In an attempt to get away from the pressure of fame, he relocates to a small Italian village where he finds himself manipulated into being the prize in a lottery to find him a wife. But things become complicated when he falls in love before the lottery is drawn.
Niven effectively plays himself as the superstar lead, although today’s audiences might not exactly buy the premise that he is the sexiest man on the planet and has women falling at his feet everywhere he goes. He’s perfectly fine in the role, but doesn’t exactly shine as brightly as the character he portrays. A supporting cast including Peggy Cummins, Anne Vernon and the great Herbert Lom are all equally adequate, but there isn’t a standout performance among them. Unfortunately, a disappointing script from Harry Kurnitz doesn’t give the cast anything particularly juicy to sink their teeth into in neither the film’s comedic nor romantic elements, while the satirical elements of the narrative aren’t biting enough to land.
The film looks beautiful thanks to the gorgeous locales, wonderfully shot by celebrated cinematographer Douglas Slocombe. And the film’s direction is decent, especially in the grandiose musical dream sequences despite ultimately feeling a little out of place alongside the rest of the film.
This new release from Network as part of The British Film collection looks wonderful, remastered from the original film elements in the correct aspect ratio. Special features underwhelm with just a theatrical trailer and image gallery, but fans of the film will certainly be grateful just to see the film looking the cleanest it has in years.
The Love Lottery is a disappointing and dated entry in the Ealing Studios canon that wastes the talents of its superb cast thanks to a soulless script.